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Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My…
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Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart

by Joyce Carol Oates

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589616,710 (3.59)36

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The novel is set in the late 1950's and early 60's in Hammond and Seracuse, New York. Gracie Curtney is a white girl coming from a dysfunctional household with a gambler father and an alcoholic mother. She lands herself in a soup when she finds herself being chased by the local loony kid, Red Garlock. She seeks help and in turn is helped by the local basketball hero and a black boy, Jinx Fairchild. In the scuffle that ensues, Red is killed and Jinx disposes of the body. This incidence haunts both of them throughout their life. It pulls them together but also pushes them apart partly due to racial considerations and partly due to fear of detection. Both of them go their separate ways in a sort of incomplete, inattentive way.

The story is dull and the characters are not well developed. The author leaves a lot of thing to the reader to interpret as he desires. Some novels with ordinary characters and ordinary lives work like [The Chip chip Gatherers] by [[Shiva Naipaul]] which I had recently read but this does not. ( )
  mausergem | Feb 15, 2013 |
I almost gave this book 5 stars. After taking a while to warm up to the story and almost putting it aside a few times, I found that after about 150 pages, I couldn't put it down. During those first 150 pages, I couldn't relate to or find anything I cared about in the characters. I found them a little tiresome and confusing. I only kept reading because of Oates' prose style, which I find fluid and very appealing, and my experiences with Oates' work in the past, which have so far never disappointed (and also because I really dislike leaving books unfinished). Maybe I just had to get to know the characters, because I really connected with them by the end. The progession of the characters through their lives made sense to me, even as their lives took turns that weren't quite what I expected. But caring about and understanding the characters is part of why I ended up giving the book 4 stars.

Reading Oates' stories, I find myself really understanding the appeal of the unrealistic happy ending. Oates gives an accurate representation of the confusion and disappointment that comes when life doesn't live up to expectations. But sometimes when I willingly suspend my disbelief to delve into a novel, I want the story to not seem so true, and to be a little less ambiguous than life often is. Maybe it's not fair to give a 5-star quality book a 4 just because I'm in the mood for a rainbow in my rain storm, but that's what I've done. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Dec 31, 2012 |
All of her books. Joyce Carol Oates. She is like an aerialist with words. Way up there in the big top, flying, pushing aside gracefully punctuation and sentence structure trapezes and ropes, with no safety net, and a perfect landing every time. Writes so much and with such insight and courage to do the impossible, i prefer to think she does it by alchemy than typing that first letter. its like her characters have a slightly different shade of sky than we are used to.
  eysman | Aug 30, 2010 |
this book is 400 pages. i started it and didn't like it that much and went on holiday. came home, got it back from the library and liked it better and went on holiday again. so on my 3rd go, i liked it much better.
i found "the crime" very bizarre and her fascination with black men/people a little peculiar. her parents' marriage was boring. i kept thinking of don johnson as her father. but the story of her university life with her professor's family was very good. the ending especially.
where is her father-in-law? does she actually not know her groom is gay? is he gay? does she actually love her father-in-law? ( )
  mahallett | Sep 2, 2009 |
one of her better ones - but I read it long ago ( )
  jhowell | Dec 23, 2006 |
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"Little Red" Garlock, sixteen years old, skull smashed soft as a rotted pumpkin and body dumped into the Cassadaga River near the foot of Pitt Street, must not have sunk as deep as he'd been intended to sink, or floated as far.
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Jinx Fairchild fights and kills a boy who bothers Iris Courtney in a western New York racial incident during the 1950s.

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